It started early in 2007, when we were first advised of the Kotzschmar Organ’s critical condition, and it climaxed in the last weekend of September, 2014. More than seven years of study and conversations, commitment and fundraising. Portland’s beloved Kotzschmar Organ left Maine for the first time since 1917 for two years of intense renovation. The staff of Foley-Baker, Inc. of Tolland, Connecticut ran an elegant “organ spa,” tending to every widget and spring in our mighty organ.
When I first heard the organ after its return, I was struck by what a difference this project has made. A hundred years of wear and tear, lots of dirt and metal fatigue, and some early mishandling had taken their toll on the venerable instrument. Hundreds of pipes had broken seams, fallen languids, and torn tuning scrolls compromising the clarity of their speech. And the mechanism that regulates wind pressure had failed long ago, robbing the organ of much of its grandeur and stability. The sound of the organ was rough and forced, and its mechanical operation was unreliable.
The renovated organ performs like brand-new. The speech of each of the 7500(?) pipes has been meticulously adjusted, the regulation of the wind is sophisticated and reliable, and the organ sings once more. The softest tones waft delicately through the auditorium, and the mighty ensembles are bold and true.
The project is nearly complete. We are working with Foley-Baker on the last rounds of adjustments and anticipate “signing off” in the next few weeks. It has been an exciting ride. With the help and support of hundreds of Kotzschmar fans, we’ve accomplished the impossible, and that grand instrument is ready to thrill its listeners for a second century.
— John Bishop